In what a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette source calls a “Solomonesque” decision, China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Company (SNPTC) has responded to lobbying by the French government by altering details of Westinghouse’s key nuclear agreement to make room for French manufacturer Areva.
In December, Westinghouse announced it had won a contract for four nuclear plants – two in the eastern Zhejiang Province and two in the south, in Guangdong Province.
But the latest project details show Westinghouse now has a “framework agreement” to build two plants in Zhejiang Province, and two further north in Shandong Province, while Areva will now build the two plants originally slated for Westinghouse in Guangdong Province.
According to China Daily, the French contracts are valued at US$5 billion (RMB38.7 billion) – Westinghouse’s contracts have been valued at US$5.3-US$8 billion.
The two-and-a-half year decision process behind China’s next generation of nuclear power has been arduous for the participants. In June last year, Westinghouse’s bid suffered setbacks over disagreements on the amount of work to be sourced domestically against imported technology. At that time, Areva, Westinghouse and Russia’s AtomStroyExport were the three main contenders for China’s next generation of nuclear plants, although sources then claimed Areva’s technology proposal was unproven; and that AtomStroyExport’s technology did not meet China’s requirements.
In December, it was thought Westinghouse had won the race to be China’s nuclear technology partner, and, at a high-profile ceremony in Beijing the company announced a tentative contract for four plants using its AP1000 technology.
But late last year, Areva chief executive officer Anne Lauvergeon accompanied French president Jacques Chirac on a lobbying mission to Beijing – a trip which appears to have paid off. In January, the company signed a “preliminary agreement” with the Guangdong Nuclear Power Group Co., owner of the Guangdong nuclear projects.
And yesterday, a senior adviser at China National Nuclear Corp confirmed the two sides were working on a “final accord” to build Areva’s EPR reactors at Yangjiang, Guangdong.
Areva (previously known as Framatome) is no stranger to China’s nuclear scene: indeed, along with Canada’s CANDU, it is the only foreign supplier to have plant on the ground, with reactors at the Daya Bay and Ling’ao nuclear power plants.
China aims to build as many as 30 new reactors by 2020, as it grows nuclear power to 4% of its installed capacity, up from 2.3% today.